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Monitoring fitness levels with a smart phone or tablet is the latest way to keep the body in good nick thanks to the availability of downloadable applications, known as apps. But there is also a growing number of apps to keep your personal finances in good shape.

While online banking has given bank customers the ability to check their balance and monitor ingoings and outgoings easily, today’s finance apps go much further than this.

Some can aggregate information about when bills are on the way and flag how much money needs to stay in your account to ensure sufficient funds for payment on due dates.

Others may help you keep a tighter rein on impulse spending. One locally-developed app, Pocketbook, reveals if you have enough funds for an impulse purchase while leaving enough in the kitty for regular bills, simply by checking your smart phone.

The personal finance hub at the Australian Securities and Investment Commission, Moneysmart.gov.au, is also backing the trend. It has developed two simple but smart apps to help guide budgeting, TrackMyGOALS and TrackMySPEND.

Access permitted

A good place to start the search for financial fitness tools is your bank. The large banks all offer free apps linked to customer accounts. Some offer budgeting while all have money management functions such as transferring between accounts and paying non-bank bills.

Some non-bank apps will also hook up with your bank information and produce graphics that display spending and saving. Some require a lot of data input and others are virtually effortless to use. Many are free but even the ones that need to be bought cost less than $5.

Although the choice of apps in Australia that link with our banks is not huge, one that stands out for its connectivity is Pocketbook. The free version has limited functions but if you pay for the product it offers a variety of budgeting tools, including weekly income and expense summaries.

Whether you go for a standard app that allows bills to be paid from your financial institution or a fancy one from a software company, it pays to be aware of privacy issues.

Downloading an app involves agreeing to conditions that can include giving providers access to the private information on your electronic device and permission for them share it with a third party.

Keep it secure

Often people prefer to stick to their banks’ products knowing they already have a secure relationship with a low risk of identity theft.

Greater security is also likely if the information you exchange with your app is done on a smart phone or tablet rather than on a PC. These devices are operated by systems designed to reduce the risk of online crime in a way that PCs with hard drives struggle to.

Even bank web browsers are more open to hacking on a PC than on a phone, unless you opt for extra protection from reputable software such as Kaspersky.i

If you prefer to manage your money on a smart device, it is vital to secure it and the app with a pin or password. Apps such as BillGuard, which scrutinises credit card statements for suspicious charges, won’t work if a code is not applied.

Just like the multitude of health apps that help shed kilos or bulk up muscle, there are also apps designed to make your debt leaner or pump up wealth by tracking your investments.

The fast-growing list of tools to keep you financially fit will leave you breathless. But the pain of finding the right budgeting app could lead to big wealth gains in the long run.

i. http://support.kaspersky.com/8056

 

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